The leaders of today’s are not built like the those of the past. Or at least they shouldn’t be if companies hope to thrive in 2013. “Leaders have to be able to change, and respond to change, as opposed to implementing ordered strategies as they always have in the past,” said Jim Brooks, president and CEO of the Americas for Control Risks, a political risk consultancy.
The modern demands of leadership, he says, are more about anticipating and responding to crises than running a tried-and-true playbook to deliver results. But according to a survey from Control Risks, 87% of leaders are finding it much harder to look ahead with confidence due to the increased complexity and volatility in the world.
So how are companies, and the boards that govern them, supposed to determine which executives are ready for such a daunting task? In some respects, you can look at a candidate’s history. Those that have operated amid chaos and in complex environments are likely to be more able to adapt than a CEO who has led a stable company through calm waters.
Still, according to Brooks, it will always be difficult to know if a leader can manage a company in today’s world until they are in place. “It’s similar to a soldier in combat,” said Brooks. “You don’t know how a soldier is going to perform until they’re in that environment themselves. You can train, you can practice, you can prepare, you can do simulations. But the reality is that, as things unfold, each environment and each situation is completely different.”
Ultimately, the way he describes the modern leader is not so different from the qualities of a great soldier. “The ability to be nimble, flexible, competent and adapt to change is what will define successful leadership in the future,” said Brooks.